Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases for 10/14/11
Starring: Kenny Wormaid, Julianne Hough, Andi MacDowell, Dennis Quaid
Directed by: Craig Brewer
The original “Footloose,” was the classic story of parents in a 1984 evangelic midwestern town terrified of what will happen to their sweet, innocent children when they are tempted by the siren call of dance music. It gets updated for an audience raised on music videos and dancing with the stars and the result is amazingly similar to the original with forgettable dialogue, but catchy tunes and dance sequences. The scary bit is that a town outlawing dancing seems more plausible today than it did thirty years ago.
3 pieces of enthusiastic dancing sequences toast
The Thing (R)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ulrich Thomsen, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen
Directed by: Matthijs van Hejiningen
A certain Analy High School science teacher liked to assign the original Cold-War version (starring James Arness as the vegetable creature from outer space) as extra credit homework. There’s little doubt he won’t be offering the same deal on this shoddy update filled with cinematic cliches and way too much fake blood. Shades of “Alien,” it’s a female who joins the Norwegian polar expedition that discovers a space ship, thaws out the creature inside, and ends up playing Ten Little Indians as the creature proves to be a deadly and quite noisy foe.
1 and 1/2 pieces of useless remake toast
Big Year (PG-13)
Starring: Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston
Directed by: David Frankel
When I interviewed Jeffrey Meyers about his new book “John Huston: Courage and Art” (listen at http://krcb.org/podcasts) he admitted that John’s daughter Anjelica Huston was the “elusive one who got away. The strikingly beautiful actress makes a brief ( and under utilized) appearance as the driver of a birding boat in “Big Year,” the low-key comedy about birdwatching. The concept is that a birder take a whole year to chronicle as many sightings of rare and common avian species as possible. It involves a lot of time travel and money, and shows what some of the fabled 1% do with their extra cash—they search for birds. Three well loved comedic actors play the lead roles—the current record holder who defends his title against a recently retired executive and a computer geek at a nuclear power plant. The total result is surprisingly underwhelming, sort of like the quest itself—there’s the bird, write it down, pack up your gear and move on.
2 pieces of watching birdwatchers watching birds toast
Starring: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rae, Magaly Solier
Directed by: Mateo Gil
The historical proposition that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid didn’t die in a blaze of Bolivian gunfire fuels this almost silent movie. Extended shots of horsemen in desolate landscapes are punctuated by what-ifs as Cassidy (aka Blackthorn) searches out the now grown child that is the result of his manage-a-trois living arrangement with Sundance and Etta.
2 and 1/2 pieces of too much silence toast
Love Crime (NR)
Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by: Alain Corneau
French clothing designers are the real stars of this ludicrous thriller. Everyone looks stunning as the female corporate boss deeply inhales the scent of her newest hire, and presents her with a silk scarf as a token of her love. She also sends her own husband on a business trip with the strikingly beautiful younger woman, and uses a surveillance camera to record the blackmail tinged result. It’s enough to make any corporate HR department resign en masse.
2 pieces of beautiful but overly convoluted toast
NEW ON DVD
Horrible Bosses (R)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Anniston, Jason Sudeikis, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day
Directed by: Seth Gordon
If your boss is the type who takes the credit (and promotions) for your work, or is the coke-snorting son who recently inherited the fine company he is recklessly destroying, or who sexually harasses you on a daily basis, then you have a right to feel angry and upset. But after the three ordinary guys in this raunchy comedy consume a sufficient quantity of alcohol, they decide to kill the bosses. They then consult an ex-con who suggests they kill each other’s boss to avoid suspicion. Okay, it’s funnier than it sounds. It’s also a very messy film. Director Seth Gordon likes to have his talented cast improvise scenes, and although this works great sometimes, on other occasions, the jokes fall flat (sort of like on Saturday Night Live).
3 pieces of great characterizations here toast
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Frank Coraci
This should have been called “A Night at the Zoological Park.” It even has an annoying capuchin monkey (with Adam Sandler’s voice). This story involves the lovably rotund title character who decides he has to find another job to get a girlfriend. However the talking animals like the guy and don’t want him to leave. So they offer advice on how to woo a mate. CG technology has improved greatly since the era when peanut butter in an animal’s mouth made them look like they were talking, but the dialogue is as predictable as the words uttered by Francis the Talking Mule (using Chill Wills’ voice).
2 pieces of talking animals toast
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (G)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Most of us would call anything that happened 30,000 years ago prehistoric, but when the German filmmaker Werner Herzog climbs deep into a cave in the French Alps, what he uncovers is surprisingly modern. Colorful lions, mammoths, horses and reindeer gallop across the rock surfaces of mankind’s first art gallery—masterpieces created all those millennium ago by an artist with a crooked little finger. Herzog wisely chose 3-D cameras to record these images, and, if possible, you should see the film that way. Herzog’s German-accented narration may not appeal to everyone (he considers universal questions like “What is art?” and “Why do humans exist?”), but I enjoyed his ruminations—even his attempt to include the existence of alligators in a pool near the caves as being profound.
3 and 1/2 pieces of beauty for its own sake, with a large dose of Herzog too toast
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (PG)
Starring: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Paris Mosteller, Preston Bailey, Garrett Ryan, Taylar Hender
Directed by: John Schultz
Sebastopol’s Megan McDonald co-wrote the screenplay for “Judy Moody and the NOT bummer Summer” from her “over 10 million sold” series of children’s books. Inside the book’s pages and on Judy’s website, there is a sweetness to the precocious third grader, and this likeability is amplified by Peter H. Reynolds simply drawn illustrations. Unfortunately, the good natured fun which is a hallmark of the books gets transformed into brash, brightly colored, merchandise hawking blandness. Most of this is the Nickelodeon/Disney Channel inspired direction where the actors act like they are acting. Every closeup has eyes rolling, mouths gesticulating, and heads gesturing. When I interviewed Megan McDonold on my KRCB-FM radio show “Word By Word: Conversations With Writers,” she told me how incidents in the book were inspired by her own childhood memories and activities of her children and their friends. Hometownish, nostalgic, endearing, and just a little bit gross (in a Sebastopudlian, kid-friendly way of course) in print, Judy Moody deserved a lighter, more loving touch on screen
2 pieces of frankly disappointing toast
Green Lantern (PG-13)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively. Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
Directed by: Martin Campbell
I was confused by the trailers they sent critics for this movie. I didn’t understand what was going on or who the different characters were. Watching the completed film hasn’t helped much. First off—the title. Turns out there isn’t one Green Lantern, but a corps of warriors with each one wearing a magical Green Lantern ring. The designated hero, is a womanizing fighter pilot, bad *ss, who blames everyone else but himself for all his speeding tickets, and is a boorish, self-obsessed chauvinist who sets up his female coworker as expendable bait while destroying billion-dollar fighter aircraft simply to win a computer-simulated dogfight. No wonder he is a disappointment to his family. He is also a disappointment to fans of his Marvel Comics origins. If the filmmakers had tried just a little bit harder, it might have been comical, but the director, the actors, and the screenwriters (who obviously never finished that “How to Write a Script” book), approach everything way too seriously.
1 and 1/2 pieces of SKIP IT toast